Jack Franklin: Well, it came as a ‘bit of a bombshell’ to everybody we were a contented little town of about 4,000 people. I mean nobody would want to deny places for people to live but we thought it a bit unfair to plan to plonk about 80 or 90,000 people on this wretched little village, and, people got very hot under the collar. But anyway it arrived, but whether it’s a success or not is open to opinion.
Interviewer: How did you react to that?
JF: I know personally I’d just bought a cottage beyond the cricket field, a nice little Georgian cottage, on the left hand side going towards London. I’d got, recently got married and, we had bought that little cottage and we had it about three weeks before we got a letter through the post box saying, “Sell this or else!”
Ooh, pretty mad about it. Anyway there was a lot of publicity and meetings and all the rest of it. Silkin was the Government chap, I think who was one of the leading lights from the Government, setting up this New Town. And my friend Clarence Elliott who was also very irate at being turfed out of his Nursery. He lived at, ‘The Plash’ down at Bedwell, he coined the word ‘Silkingrad’, and we thought this was rather a good name to call Stevenage.
So with a couple of friends, – they were the doctor’s sons, Skeggs, and we manufactured signs – it wasn’t a daubing affair at all. We made out of hardboard, signs to put on the station, and sign posts and so forth. And rather like a military operation, one snowy moonlight January night, frosty moonlight January night, we put these signs up, put an enormous sign on top of the Station, about 14 foot long and, labelling the whole place, ‘Silkingrad’.
And it was quite easy to do really, because only one policeman used to patrol Stevenage, that’s dear old PC Hagger, and he came wandering round and we happened to tell him that there was a brace of pheasants in the back of van, if he’d like them, and that was that.
And we tipped off the Press, really we were after the publicity. In I think about 48 hours, it had even got as far as the American Press. And of course, all this objection came up in the High Court, and my father was one of the leading lights in the Committee that objected, and we had subscriptions from all over the world. People who used to live in Stevenage, even New Zealand sent us money, and so forth. And we won in the High Court, and then in the House of Lords the judgement was overturned. Now stands the New Town of Stevenage.